The fireplaces are roaring, crackling, and pulsating with warmth throughout the day. Early in the morning, it feels wonderful to step out the back door in my chunky winter boots and warm flannel robe, squint against the shimmering icicles reflecting the snow, and breathe in the frosty air before gathering firewood for the winter day ahead. This is our 2nd winter here in New Hampshire. Winter in New Hampshire is a beautiful thing to behold.
Last winter two days before Christmas, we wearily landed on the doorstep of what would become our dream farmhouse adventure. We’ll probably be telling this story, about our move to NH, to our grandchildren when we are into our 70’s.
A year ago. The house was stone cold. Every room was filled with dead bugs. We’ll never forget the dead bugs. We went room by room sweeping them up in great piles and wondering aloud what in the world had possessed us to go on this silly adventure. The wind literally whistled through many of the windows. We struggled to learn quickly how to light the wood burning fireplaces that creaked and groaned in happiness because they had not been lit for 4 1/2 years. Did we make the biggest mistake of our lives? Or, the best mistake of our lives?
Our moving truck phoned to let us know they broke down somewhere in Tennessee, many states away. They wouldn’t be arriving with our earthly possessions until after Christmas. No one was upset. We laughed at our predicament as well as theirs. We decided to dress in our best rumpled clothing we had left from our 3 day car trek from Texas up to New Hampshire, drive across the hills to the quaint historic Hancock Inn and treat ourselves to the most delicious 4 course Christmas Eve dinner en lieu of any presents that year. It was a beautiful snowy evening last Christmas and we relished the experience at this classic old inn.
We camped out for 3 days in one of the downstairs rooms all huddled in front of the largest wood burning fireplace. We couldn’t have been happier. We foraged outside and throughout the cavernous barn for wood and kindling. We bought a bag of marshmallows and roasted them on long branches over the crackling fire. We smeared them with melted chocolate over graham crackers and feasted on our Christmas dessert.
Change is hard. Change requires fighting against inertia. We pushed back against inertia that was keeping us from doing what we truly desired, sold our house in Houston, packed the car with our dog, Chester…our cat, Polly…our two kids and went in search of our dream location.
Last year on Christmas Day, we wriggled out of sleeping bags and peered out the frosted-over windows of this old farmhouse because we heard voices coming from outside. We squinted down the hillside and saw families brightly wrapped and bundled up in colorful striped scarves and pom-pom topped fluffy hats tromping through the snow and braving the winter elements. Throughout the day, up and down the road different families appeared in clusters probably walking off their Christmas feasts. We could hear them all laughing and wishing each other a merry christmas. The children ran, skipped, and waddled down the road zipped up in their winter snowsuits, little feet stuffed in chunky boots, to the river below to see the icicles, the covered bridge, and simply revel in the Christmas Day atmosphere.
Fast forward one year later. And, here we are, owners of this very same farmhouse. It is warm and toasty and outfitted with new windows and doors. Candles are set on each brand new sill to offer little glimmers of flickering light into the darkness of these northern winters. Fireplaces are expertly lit now and warmth welcomes into our home…these same people we wondered about one year ago. Holiday decorations have been unwrapped like long lost treasures and finally found new resting spots in one place or another…in this 8th of our many homes!
Our new community is rich with extraordinary characters. Over the past year, we have been welcomed into their lives with broad smiles and open arms. Many new faces and big personalities have made us laugh, have merrily entertained us with festivities full of music and musicians, and have helped us learn about New Hampshire things like roof-raking, apple orchard-caretaking, and maple syrup tasting over this past year.
We’ve met sweet Betty & Paul up the road who have graced us with beautiful antique clocks that Paul has painstakingly rebuilt and reworked over the years. We smile and think of them when we hear one chiming the hours throughout the day. We’ve pretty much declared Jennifer & David our new BFFs as we’ve moved through the year celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays together. Chester’s second home is at their house and their dog Ajax is now part of our family as well.
We’ve met Megan & Rick who are the most likable big-hearted family with their two extraordinarily talented artist children, Seni & Sentho. Rick tells the most amazing stories that make you just want to stop everything you are doing to listen to the entirety of his tales told in a decidedly Rhode Island accent. Megan has lived in this community more than half her life. She leads me from one delightful New Hampshire find to another….like on Christmas Eve, when we hopped in our cars, followed them out into the middle of the countryside, parked alongside a tiny road at this most precious pointy roofed stark white “meeting house”, listened to Christmas lyrics ring out into the cold winter forest air, and then hugged people we didn’t even know as we all sipped on hot chocolate while wishing everyone a most delightful New Year.
Slowly and certainly most wonderfully, we are weaving ourselves into the hearts and lives of a new and most unique community. Our transition here was truly effortless because of the outpouring of kindness from this little enclave, often called by the one road that runs through our area …”Waterloo“.
We’re still meeting new friends who have entered our world this year who have waved and smiled and introduced themselves to our family: Pat & Paul…and Linda & Peter, each with a historic home filled with long-ago stories
…and Rocky with her new little wiggly pup “Wink”
… quiet thoughtful Joan who shyly asked to pluck Sumac from one of our trees to make into a hot tea
… and adorable little Ruby who peeks out shyly at us when we wave hello.
Ann Ordway Higgins, the great great grand-daughter of Nehemiah Ordway, who originally owned our farmhouse, graced us with a visit twice now. On the last visit, she gifted us a bulging binder of written stories passed down to her by her Aunt Sybie who, as a child, spent many years running around playing , and picnicking down at the pond with her cousins and spending many holidays in this home in the younger days of this farmhouse.
What a difference a year makes.
What a difference a community makes.
My heart is full to bursting this year. I haven’t a desire for more of anything in the world.
But, if I could kiss the palm of my hand and gently blow a wish out there into this chaotic world of ours, the wish would be for more people to:
Smile at one another more. Wave to one another more. Say a friendly-something to one another more.
These are tiny little gestures which bring communities from places where we merely exist side-by-side..to communities that become pockets of warmth, out-reach in times of distress, extensions of much-needed family…each so very necessary for the survival of humankind.